Those who have called Gainesville home for more than four years know that The Swamp is home to more than just the university, football team and the entertainment scene along University Avenue. Gainesville and its surrounding towns are home to numerous gems of nature. From springs, to rivers and lakes, to prairies and plains, there’s no shortage of places to explore, break a sweat and unplug from the stresses of everyday life. Whether you’re a Gainesville native or a newbie, here are a few of our top places to get some fresh air near Gainesville:
Hogtown Creek Greenway
The easy 2-mile stretch of greenway that runs alongside and over Hogtown Creek is a short, but beautiful outing that will allow you to appreciate the nature in Gainesville away from the hustle and bustle of the college and surrounding busy roads.
Start off at the kiosk of the former environmental center and head into Loblolly Woods on the Hogtown Creek Greenway for views of historic Gainesville. This trail is a nice, shady reprieve from the heat, but you will definitely need to bring some bug spray!
Gainesville–Hawthorne State Park Trail
For families looking to hit a well-maintained trail that stays relatively level the whole way through and boasts great scenery and wildlife, the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Park Trail will make for an awesome day.
While the whole trail is 16.5 miles, you enter Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park about 2 miles into the trail. If you’re looking to ease into a longer bike trip, getting to Paynes Prairie is a good start. Then you can go a little further on your next trip.
In addition to the enjoyable ride, several of the trailside overlooks offer wonderful views of the prairie and wildlife, including bison, wild horses and alligators. Enjoy this popular spot to get fresh air near Gainesville.
San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park
San Felasco Park is home to some of most popular trails in Gainesville, and for good reason!
With over 20 miles of single-track trails, hikers have options both north and south of Millhopper Road in loops ranging from 1–6 miles, which makes this park an excellent option for families of all ages. During the course of your hike you’ll get quintessential views of Florida nature, including woods, marshes and wildlife.
Blue Springs Park
For families with small kiddos, Blue Springs Park, which is located in High Springs, is one of the best places near Gainesville to get some time in the sand and the water without have to worry about the vastness or currents of the ocean.
Blue Springs Park is a second-magnitude spring with a large area for swimming, a diving dock, 50 yards of white sand beach and a boardwalk that allows for fishing at the end.
At a comfortable 72 F year-round and clear visibility, Blue Springs is also fun for snorkeling and tubing. There’s also an area for camping to make a weekend trip out of your visit.
Lake Santa Fe
Designated by the state of Florida as “Outstanding Florida Water,” you know you’ve got a potential day of spectacular fishing ahead at Lake Santa Fe.
Lake Santa Fe is a spring-fed lake that is 2 miles wide and 3 miles long, giving you plenty of space to hook a black crappie, bluegill, redear or largemouth bass. In fact, according to Visit Gainesville, 2–4 pound largemouth bass are common in Lake Santa Fe, with 6–8 pounders possible.
For more information about Gainesville-area attractions, things to do and places to explore, head to VisitGainesville.com.